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I'm looking for polite alternatives to the omnipresent

Grüß Gott

in Austria/Bavaria. I dislike using a religious phrase to salute others (potentially non religious persons). I'm also not very fond of

Guten Tag

as it is mostly associated with German tourists/stiffness (sorry, no insult intended).

So far I used

Grüß' Sie

which isn't very polite, in my opinion. Or is it? Can you help me find a better salutation?

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Not good enough to be an answer, but still: If you must avoid the time of day, and you decide to say "Hallo!" (much more appropriate on the telephone), placing the emphasis on the second syllable can sound much more polite. Though I'd stick with "Grüß' sie", "Grüße Sie" and "Ich grüße Sie" (in order of politeness). – Stefano Palazzo May 25 '11 at 9:03
You dislike religious phrases to salute? So, do not use "goodbye", that comes from "God be with ye"..... – user1906 Aug 24 '12 at 22:11
baz: In that case the original etymology is all but forgotten by most users, though, whereas »Grüß Gott« still makes it very apparent. – Joey Sep 5 '12 at 10:23
„Grüß Gott.“ „Grüß ihn doch selber!“ ;-) – Speravir Feb 11 '13 at 19:32
"Grüß' Sie" (like "Grüß Gott") is a contraction of "Grüße Sie Gott" so I won't help you out of your atheist dilemma. – nwellnhof Feb 26 '13 at 0:06

14 Answers 14

up vote 24 down vote accepted

"Guten Morgen" (any time before noon)

"Guten Tag" (any time between mid-morning and 6 pm)

"Guten Abend" (any time after 6 pm)

Times above are a rough estimate. People don't get huffed if you're a minute or two early/late (unlike in English speaking countries, where people feel a need to apologize if they use "good morning" at two minutes past noon).

Depending on the time of day, these are perfectly acceptable and not stiff at all.

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I like "Guten Morgen" and "Guten Abend" (both perfectly polite) very much. Good idea! Now I still need something for 10am to 6pm! :) – Sebastian May 25 '11 at 9:46
Guten Tag is just about right for that. People sometimes also say Mahlzeit in my area but not until 6 pm. – Octavian Damiean May 25 '11 at 10:00
Just for the record, I've never met a fellow American who'd apologise for saying "good morning" at five in the afternoon, or any other time...Or expect an apology at hearing it either. :P – kitukwfyer May 25 '11 at 16:26
If you walk into a shop in New Zealand, two minutes after noon, and somebody says "Good Morning", eyebrows will be raised and hasty apologies will be distributed. All in a good-natured way, of course, but still, the time DOES play a major role in the "correct" selection of the greeting. – teylyn May 26 '11 at 8:41
In some regions of Germany, "Guten Morgen" at 11:30 would sound rather strange and people will think that you got up rather late. – Hendrik Vogt Jun 6 '11 at 17:18

There would be another alternative.

Habe die Ehre

It is an older but still used form in Austria. It can be used to say Hello and Good bye.

Younger people often use a derived version to greet each other.


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Isn't that used to say Good Bye rather than Hello? – Florian Peschka May 25 '11 at 8:35
@ApoY2K It is used in both cases. – Octavian Damiean May 25 '11 at 8:35
I think even Austrians say it with a slightly ironic undertone nowadays. Also, I think it's more a way to say "goodbye". And... it's also used to express a (negative) surprise: "Haaabe die Ehre!" – splattne May 25 '11 at 8:39
@splattne There are still regions where people greet like that but you are right it can have another meaning as well. – Octavian Damiean May 25 '11 at 8:42
nice suggestion @Octavian, but I think it is not very suitable. My friends from the valleys though use Habi-d'ere! (if they know each other already). In a town it is very, very rare. – Sebastian May 25 '11 at 9:51

“Guten Tag” is the conventional alternative. It may sound a little formal but it’s really not.

Personally I prefer a hearty “Hallo” (or “Moin” in the north) but this is generally not seen as very polite and should be avoided if you don’t know your interlocutor and don’t want to give offence.

In particular, answering “Grüß Gott” with “Hallo” is certainly a bad idea.

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And even if "moin" sounds a bit like "morgen" (morning), it is usable at any time of the day - even at midnight. – FUZxxl May 25 '11 at 15:46
To expand on FUZxxl's comment: moin is short for moin moin, which means Guten Morgen (literally schönen Morgen) in Low German. The short form is for the first moin, so it's just schönen, or rather guten, and is therefore appropriate for all day ;) See Isoptopp's answer for how to use it in Southern Germany - here in Schleswig-Holstein, Moin is typically used even formally, though Konrad's right: Avoid if you are not sure. – OregonGhost May 26 '11 at 8:37
I would not recommend "Moin" or "Moin, moin" in South Germany. I've been there the last two weeks but did get only astonished views. – harper Aug 26 '12 at 15:51
@harper Yes; that’s why I said “or ‘Moin’ in the north”. – Konrad Rudolph Aug 26 '12 at 18:00

As "Grüß Gott!" is only used in the south, you can freely answer it with "Servus!" (As long as you don't mind its latin origin of "slave" ;-))

This is used as hi/bye in Bavaria and probably also in Austria. You won't sound like a "Saupreuß" and avoid the religious phrase.

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True. Servus is widely used in Austria but rather when you know someone already. I would not use it on first contact. – Octavian Damiean May 25 '11 at 8:52
Correct, Servus is rather the alternative to "Hallo". If you want to stay on the same level as "Grüß Gott", I guess there is really only "Guten Tag" left. – ladybug May 25 '11 at 8:56
Never ever follow Grüß Gott with Servus! The former implies a Sie-form, the latter implies a du-form! – Jan Mar 18 '15 at 0:21

Further north, you can also use Moin, or Moinmoin. It's fun to say, perfectly polite, quite common, and somewhat disarming.

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Moin? In Austria / Bavaria? No way! – Sean Patrick Floyd May 25 '11 at 9:23
Perhaps I should have been more clear: by further north, I mean in the north. – Glen Wheeler May 25 '11 at 10:14
@Glen OK, but that's not the question, is it? – Sean Patrick Floyd May 25 '11 at 10:16
@Sean Indeed. I don't expect it to be 'the correct answer', but it is related, and perhaps useful to others in the future. – Glen Wheeler May 25 '11 at 10:19
Go south. When hiking in Bavaria, I greeted groups of passer-by with the Swiss "Grüezi Mitenand". It was amusing. – ahoffer Jan 29 '12 at 18:14

Hello, I'm looking for polite alternatives to the omnipresent Grüß Gott in Austria/Bavaria.

I'd say there isn't an alternative on the same level of formality. "Servus" is an informal alternative but there are many situations where it's not appropriate.

"Guten Tag" is certainly not an option. Using it expresses your unwillingness to accept local customs.

I dislike using a religious phrase to salute others (potentially non religious persons).

I understand (and share) this opinion, but I'd say it's not possible in those regions without leaving a bad impression (with religious and non-religious people alike). On the other hand, non-religious people in Bavaria and Austria are very used to being greeted with "Grüß Gott" (and should not take offense). I don't think it's worth the effort

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It also depends on the prononciation: Guten Tag is ok, Guten Tach less so. – Phira May 25 '11 at 10:21
I disagree that Guten Tag is not an option. The first thing I got told when I started out at a Hotline was that we should drop that greeting and use Guten Morgen/Tag/Abend instead. This is of course of personal taste, but I find it more offending if I use such a greeting without believing in the words, then to use something different. – Bobby May 25 '11 at 10:38
@Bobby in a Hotline context, I agree. I'd say that Austrians / Bavarians have come to a point where they would probably expect Hochdeutsch from a telephone hotline. I am talking about meeting people personally – Sean Patrick Floyd May 25 '11 at 10:41

I generally discourage religious phrases, but "Grüß Gott" has really lost its religious meaning and is used by most atheists (with some exceptions, of course) because of the dominant geographical meaning.

Note that you can get through the day with the acceptable

"Guten Morgen!", "Mahlzeit!", "Schönen Abend!". but not everyone likes "Mahlzeit" because it has a connotation that it is said at work during noon break.

"Grüß Sie" is perfectly ok, although I would feel a slight need to add something like:

Grüß Sie, freut mich Sie zu sehen.

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Gibt es einen Beleg für die Aussage, was die meisten Atheisten tun? Die meisten Atheisten Österreichs, Bayern oder beide? Eine andere Frage ist, was die dominante geographische Bedeutung von "Grüß Gott" sein soll - dass es bergig ist? – user unknown Jul 15 '14 at 22:09

I was born in the city of Kiel in the north, and have been living some time in Karlsruhe in the south.

I made it a point to answer "Grüß Gott" (a typically southern greeting) with a stereotypical northern german "Moin Moin" (related to dutch "mooi moin", Schönen/Guten Tag). Delivered with the proper grin it works very well: It also switches their response to Hochdeutsch, which makes them much more understandable. :-)

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Moin, fellow Kieler ;) Moin moin in southern Germany, especially in Bavaria (not so much in Baden-Württemberg), may also get you thrown out of a shop. Be careful ;) I don't know how true this is though. I was in France last year, and everybody always says they don't talk to you if you don't at least try French first. But the few encounters where one of my friends (not speaking French) tried to start the conversation in English, they were friendly as well. And all Bavarians I know personally are also nice ;) – OregonGhost May 26 '11 at 8:43
I am 2.02m. Most people are nice. Needing to look up to see the smile tends to set the right frame for a good start. :-) – Isotopp May 26 '11 at 8:46
I guess that really makes things easier ;) – OregonGhost May 26 '11 at 9:10
@OregonGhost If you try to speak with knowing little French in France be prepared that "plü lentemong siwuplä" means "please say exactly the same at double speed" ;) – Hagen von Eitzen Aug 7 '13 at 22:06

Even in Bavaria Grüß Gott is not used all the time.

Before noon you can just use Morgen. But I'm not sure at which is the correct boarder between the two usages, because I'm only a Zugereister, meaning I didn't grow up in Bavaria.

You can use Hallo to friends (Bekannte) and peers (Kollegen) or in a shop.

At noon peers are using Mahlzeit as standard form and it is very hard to escape this usage.

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It's really hard to escape the usage of Mahlzeit, though it's rather Mahltiet in the North. It emphasizes the time; it's especially annoying when you start working very late and they say it when you just come in ;) – OregonGhost May 26 '11 at 18:41

Ich hoffe, es ist in Ordnung, wenn ich auf Deutsch antworte, denn es ist meine Muttersprache, und darin kann ich mich besser ausdrücken.

Grüß Gott
Ich bin ein Atheist und ich lebe in Wien. Ich mag den Gruß "Grüß Gott" auch nicht und das aus demselben Grund. Aber ich benutze den Gruß trotzdem, denn hier in Österreich denkt kaum jemand über den religiösen Hintergrund dieses Grußes nach. "Grüß Gott" ist hier nichts weiter als die Standard-Grußfloskel. Alltagstaugliche Alternativen gibt es eigentlich nicht.

Ich gehe trotzdem auf ein paar Alternativen ein, die sich aber, zumindest in Ost-Österreich, bisher nicht als Ersatz für "Grüß Gott" durchsetzen konnten:

Guten Tag
Das in Österreich zu sagen ist keine wirklich gute Idee. "Guten Tag" wird hier von vielen als Teutonismus wahrgenommen. Ein Teutonismus ist ein Ausdruck, der im aktiven Wortschatz eines Österreichers nicht vorkommt, den man aber häufig bei Immigranten und Touristen aus Deutschland hört. Wer einen Teutonismus benutzt, outet sich sofort als "Piefke" ("Piefke" ist eine in Österreich weit verbreitete ironisch-abwertende Bezeichnung für deutsche Staatsbürger). Tausende Deutsche, die hier in Österreich leben, können davon ein Lied singen.
Dem steht aber gegenüber, dass wir Österreicher die Deutschen eigentlich ganz gern haben. Wir wollen nur auf gar keinen Fall selbst für Deutsche gehalten werden, und daraus entsteht dann etwas, was gar nicht böse gemeint ist, aber oft als Ablehnung verstanden wird. (Das deutsch-österreichische Verhältnis wird vor allem von österreichischer Seite oft unnötig kompliziert gemacht.)

Das ist nur angebracht, wenn man jemanden grüßt, mit dem man per Du ist. "Servus" wird unter Du-Freunden benutzt, wenn man sich begegnet und auch wenn man sich verabschiedet. Es hat also eine andere Funktion als das deutsche "Tschüß". "Tschüß" sagt man in Deutschland, meinen eigenen Beobachtungen zufolge, auch dann, wenn man per Sie ist, und man verwendet es nur zum Abschied.
"Servus" wird vor allem bei jüngeren Menschen zunehmend von "Hallo" verdrängt.

Hallo / Hi
"Hallo" und "Hi" sind die modernen Versionen von "Servus". Auch nur unter Du-Freunden verwendbar, allerdings sagt man das nur, wenn man sich begegnet. "Hallo" ist kein Abschiedsgruß.

Ein reiner Abschiedsgruß unter Du-Freunden. Wird als Gegenstück zu "Hallo" bzw. "Hi" verwendet. Stammt ursprünglich aus der Baby-Sprache, mit der man sich mit Säuglingen unterhält.

Guten Morgen / guten Abend
Guten Morgen: Bis ca. 10:00 Uhr. Guten Abend: Ab ca. 17:00 Uhr. Ist während dieser Uhrzeiten vermutlich die beste Alternative zu "Grüß Gott". Kann auch bei formalen Gelegenheiten vewendet werden.

Gute Nacht
Das ist ein Abschiedsgruß, den man nur verwendet, wenn man gerade dabei ist zu Bett zu gehen.

Habe die Ehre
Ein aussterbender Gruß, der fast nur von Pensionisten über 60 Jahren benutzt wird und da meist auch nur von Männern, die versuchen besonders galant auf Frauen zu wirken. Kein Alltags-Gruß, in einer Business-Umgebung völlig fehl am Platz, kann unter Freunden vielleicht zum Scherz verwendet werden.

Eigentlich ein Tisch-Gruß, den man sagt bevor man den ersten Bissen seinen Mittags-Mahls in den Mund schiebt. "Mahlzeit" hat sich aber zu einem Büro-Gruß entwickelt, mit dem man Arbeitskollegen rund um die Mittagszeit grüßt.

schönen Morgen/Tag/Abend
Lassen Sie das in Österreich. Tageszeiten sind vielleicht in einigen Gegenden Deutschlands "schön", aber sicher nicht in Österreich. In Österreich sind Tageszeiten in Grußfloskeln einfach nur "gut". Das Wort "schön" hat in Österreich ein sehr viel engeres Einsatzgebiet als in Deutschland.

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super Zusammenfassung, danke! – Sebastian Aug 25 '12 at 14:31
"Grüß Gott" kenne ich auch hier in Franken ("Nordbayern") aus meiner Kindheit, heute ist der Gruß unter jüngeren Menschen (0-50) praktisch nicht mehr in Gebrauch. – 0x6d64 Feb 5 '13 at 18:58
Als Mit-Atheist kann ich nur sagen: Gottseidank äußert sich hier jemand dahingehend, dass der religiöse Hintergrund bei "Grüß Gott" nicht mehr mitgedacht wird. – Hagen von Eitzen Aug 7 '13 at 22:01
Zu "Habe die Ehre": Ich hab vor kurzem in einer Bäckerei in Wien tatsächlich auch noch ein ernst gemeintes "Küss die Hand, gnädige Frau" gehört. --- Ich bin übrigens als Deutscher in Wien 1. schon nach kurzer Zeit zum dort universellen "Grüß Gott" konvertiert und 2. Mitglied der Atheistischen Glaubensgemeinschaft geworden. – Hans Adler Apr 2 '15 at 13:07
In den Wiener Gemeide-Bezirken innerhalb des Gürtels, hauptsächlich aber in der Innenstadt, sind vor allem Kaufleute noch sehr um die Bewahrung alter Traditionen bemüht. Wenn da der Bäcker die Kundin mit »Küss die Hand« begrüßt, dann sehe ich das eher als eine Art Brauchtumspflege, die betrieben wird um die Erwartungen von Touristen zu erfüllen. Da geht es nicht nur um die gerade angesprochene Kundin, sondern eher um eventuell anwesende fremdländische (also deutsche) Gäste, die die Begrüßung mithören, sich dann über die Altwiener Höflichkeit freuen, und daheim dann Werbung für Wien machen. – Hubert Schölnast Apr 2 '15 at 14:41

Here are the alternatives to "Grüß Gott", starting with the most formal, ending with the least formal:

Grüß' Sie

sounds a little old fashioned

Guten Tag

In Vienna, people say it a lot


Short form of "Guten Tag"


informal. only used with people you know (better)


used with friends and family

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Best answer here imho. Especially because it doesn't encourage the use of Hallo (which should really not have become as widespread as it is nowadays). – Jan Mar 18 '15 at 0:23

You should never use a non-existent variant of a regional greeting formula (like "Grüß Sie" where "Grüß Gott" is the custom). You will sound like you want to make fun of local customs and be considered rude and impolite.

As a non-local, people would expect you to use the non-local, standard German greeting "Guten Tag/Morgen/Abend" (depending on the time of day), like they do themselves, if they travel outside of their dialectal area. If speaking the German common language feels "touristy" to you, then that is because you ARE a tourist :-)

By the way, "Grüß Gott" is not understood to be religious by the locals. They often tend to shorten it to "Gott" or even "'ott" or something similar. It is nothing but an empty formula, similar to "How do you do?" in British English (which is answered with an equally empty "How do you do?"). Just get over your literal understanding and, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.

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Grüß Gott shortened to Gott? Or even ott? Never heard of that one! On the contrary, Grüß Sie is very well understood in Bavaria. – Jan Mar 18 '15 at 0:19

'Mahlzeit' is used in offices and other work-places all over Germany, between about half-an-hour before the usual lunch-time to about an hour afterwards. From about an hour before going-home-time (or 'knocking-off-time', as we say in England), Germans will often say 'Feierabend!'. This has nothing to do with a planned celebration or party; it just means time to go home. The gap between 'Mahlzeit' and 'Feierabend' can be quite short in some places, especially where working hours are flexible...

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Yeah "Mahlzeit", and "Feierabend" is used very often. I would not consider this as a polite salutation but it definitely is not impolite either. In an official/business setting I would not recommend using it. – Takkat Jul 25 '13 at 7:50

I feel like you and don't like using Grüß Gott.

I am German and live in Baveria. I have always used Hallo and Tschüs (sounds softer with long ü) throughout my live in any situation.

I never felt that anybody felt this to be inappropriate or impolite.

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